Serial rapist and sexual predator Bill Cosby was found guilty today. From the New York Times:
A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.
On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.
The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.
1 Good. Cosby should be serving hard time for rape. This verdict won’t accomplish that, and he has the resources to keep the matter tied up in appeals, maybe even forcing a new trial. Never mind: the verdict itself is satisfying punishment for a true ethics villain.
2. The verdict overcame the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, and that’s no mean feat. The jury deserves a lot of credit. Here, for the umpteenth time, is the scale:
Celebrities—or the characters they are identified with— are typically so high on the scale ( think of Bill/Cliff Huxtable as a plus 100) that even the evidence of a crime can’t pull them down sufficiently for jurors to be able to resolve the dissonance when they are thinking, “But he’s a great man and a wonderful person! How could he do these things?” The dissonance creates automatic reasonable doubt, all by itself, at least with enough jurors to ensure a mistrial, as in Cosby’s first trial. Hence O.J. Errol Flynn was acquitted of statutory rape. Robert Blake (“Baretta”) was acquitted of murdering his wife. Bill Cosby figured to have an unusually strong celebrity shield, but several factors overcame it:
- the amount of evidence against him.
- the fact that what he did represented such a betrayal of his public image
- the judge allowing, in the re-trial, other victims to testify
- the series of previously admired show business figures who have been exposed as predators and sexual abusers since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck pulled out of the station, and
- the fact that Cosby peak celebrity was decades ago.
If the trial had occurred at the time of “The Cosby Show,” I wonder if any evidence could have convinced a jury to convict him. Continue reading